Veterans Affairs Canada agrees with Canada's veterans ombudsman that veterans need better access to long-term care beds, and says the department has already taken steps to that goal.

In October, ombudsman Guy Parent released a report calling on the government to improve programs and services to veterans, called Continuum of Care: A Journey from Home to Long Term Care.

"More needs to be done to address gaps, complexities and obstacles that may exist," a VAC spokesperson said in an email to CBC Tuesday. "As areas for improvement are analyzed, we would come forward with proposals including regulatory amendments, where necessary."

Over the past year, VAC said it has established agreements for improved and expanded access to long-term care beds at eight facilities, including the Camp Hill Veterans Memorial building, Ridgewood Veterans Wing, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Parkwood Institute, Perley and Rideau Veterans Health Centre, Veterans Lodge at Broadmead, Maison Paul Triquet, and Carewest Colonel Belcher.

More beds available

Before these agreements, all beds were only available to Second World War and Korean War veterans who served overseas, low-income veterans or those who have a disability related to their war service, VAC said. Now, several preferred admission beds are available for veterans who served in Canada for a minimum of 365 days and are low-income, to Canadian Armed Forces veterans and to Allied veterans.

The ombudsman also wants Veterans Affairs to look at adding assisted living as an option. Parent suggested an additional benefit to subsidize assisted-living options for ex-soldiers who cannot remain in their own home, but do not qualify for regular long-term care. 

Currently, home care is offered through the Veterans Independence Program. But long-term care is the only option after that.

"They might still be able to live at home in an assisted-living apartment much longer," Parent said. "But now the only other option is if you can't stay at home, you have to go to long-term care at $10,000 a month." 

Assisted living

Parent also points out that couples often can't go to the same long-term facility together, because VAC has contracted long-term beds at eight long-term care facilities. The closest beds to P.E.I. are in Halifax or Saint John, but there might not be room for a veteran's spouse, too. Assisted living would delay that separation, Parent said. 

VAC did not address Parent's call for assisted living help. 

"The Department continuously reviews its programs and services in consultation with our veterans and stakeholders community ... to identify opportunities for improvement," the email said. 

With files form Laura Chapin